Monday, March 31, 2008


It will be quite interesting to see how Robert Mugabe and his cronies handle these next few days. It is apparent from pre election polls and unofficial tallies that his ZANU-PF party has no chance of staying in office with a free count. Mugabe has managed to hold on to power over the last decade by using two broad tactics:
1. Patronage sometimes tinged with racism, where the government seizes the property of whites and distributes that property to Mugabe’s cronies (This has the added benefits of reminding voters of Mugabe’s role in the struggle against white rule).
2. Violence and electoral fraud.

However, it has become extremely clear to Zimbabweans that he is ruining their country. Unfortunately, an extreme interpretation of the Philips Curve aside, inflation of 1,000% per day is quite bad for the economy. It makes holding paper currency for any period of time a very bad investment, and encourages all kinds of unproductive behavior. Undermining private property has been quite harmful for the economy as well. Not only does it cheapen contracts, but also Mugabe’s redistribution policies have taken farmland away from those most skilled at running it. As a result, land is misused and vacant, and the country is starving. A sizable share of the population has left the country. The Economist reports one of the most startling statistics - that the life expectancy in Zimbabwe, which was once the highest in sub-Sharan Africa, is now one of the lowest at 36. Within the last month, the Mugabe signed an act allowing the government to transfer the majority share of a business owned by any non-indigenous Zimbabweans to anyone who was discriminated against prior to 1980. The aim appears to have been to drum up some racist support and drive out the 0.5% or so of the population that is white.

Mugabe does not have much chance of winning a legitimate count this election, but he does need to some public support to maintain his legitimacy and his handouts will help maintain that. It seems most likely, but not inevitable, that the government will fudge the electoral math as it did in 2002. Many times more dead people will vote than ever did in Chicago. This will be widely condemned, but Mugabe will hold on for a while. However, it is possible that Mugabe will let his own defeat stand or rather his cronies will refuse the excessive cheating necessary to maintain him in office. I think that is the best hope for his removal. Mugabe’s cronies know the country is on a disastrous course. Makoni and his faction have already broken. Some of the remaining loyalists must realize that the amount of possible goods they can loot is declining. Furthermore, they are aware that Mugabe is 84 and won’t be around forever. When he dies, there is no obvious successor to keep the coalition together. They need to make preparations for the end of the regime, which is looking increasingly likely. Hopefully, this leads to a surprisingly rapid transformation to a relatively function democracy and more rational policies. We will learn a lot in the next few days.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brief Commencement Statement

The aim of this blog is the furtherance of Political, Economic, and Social Liberalism. I have a background in Economics and Finance (but no postgraduate education in these subjects), and so I tend to look at topics in a cost-benefit sort of way. I would put this blog within the Smith-Hayek tradition of liberalism based on a certain understanding of economics. However, subjects are not always about simple costs and benefits for society; there are many values that are important yet difficult to price. I advocate freedom of speech because I personally value that freedom and find the lack of it repulsive. For example, while Singapore may be materially quite rich, I would rather live in a marginally poorer country with more freedom. More controversially, I favor freedom of movement across country borders. Putting aside the added value of the option to move abroad, there is something inherently uncomfortable to me about being so constrained in my movements by the government. These freedoms are important to me, and the lack of them has a cost. Perhaps there could be some tradeoff between these freedoms. At the individual level, that can affect the choice of where to live. But fortunately for countries, it appears that expansion of any type of freedom tends to bring about growth of the others.

This blog may adopt some radical views (within our current political spectrum), but will not be radical in approach. I tend to favor gradual advancement towards improved policy. Upheaval has a cost, and so does the continuance of bad policies – they must be balanced. I am a reader of many blogs, but if I had to pick a two that I believe are most similar to my outlook - the two at the top of Google Reader for me are Marginal Revolution and Megan McArdle at the Atlantic. I admire their thought processes and styles. Both are far far beyond me, but both will be significant influences. But I aim to resist the temptation to discuss and link to only those who agree with my views.

To state it formally, I have three purposes for this blog at this point
1. To engage with those outside of liberalism and try to influence their views and those of undecideds.
2. To help with the development and refinement of liberal/libertarian views within that community.
3. And more selfishly, to develop and refine my own views and personal thought process.

So these are my goals. This blog will testify to whether or not I succeed.